Lower back soreness, stiffness, ache and injury are commonplace these days. With these 3 assessment based exercises you can test your lower backs robustness at home.
If you flunk all 3 tests lower back discomfort or injury maybe imminent. If you can comfortably perform each test chances are your pretty decent.
Just take care on the final exercise if you have any knee issues. Below I've described why each test is important.
Test 1 - Crossed Leg Seating
As a young school pupil we spent hours in this position, however as an adult few people have the ability to get knees close to the floor. Imagine the discomfort in the lower back if we had to listen to the head teacher ramble on now!
This test simply highlights hip flexion, adduction and external rotation range of motion (don't worry if these words make no sense). This is essentially the bottom position of a squat, or the start position of a sumo deadlift, or the shape you create to pick pretty much anything up off the floor.
If you think sitting on the floor cross legged is only for kids, think again, it's also for your dear lower back. Which let's be honest is pretty damn important too.
Test 2 - Seated Toe Touch
The ability to sit down and touch your toes isn't simply a test of hamstring flexibility, it actually incorporates flexibility of the entire posterior chain right from head to toe.
What's more it highlights muscle balance i.e. can the strength of your anterior muscles (abdominals, hip flexors) overcome strength and dominance of their rear counterparts!? Muscle balance is crucial for for the maintenance of healthy joints.
Without adequate flexibility and strength around the hip area, this ball and socket joint can't perform it's job correctly. Don't worry though, the lower back will lend a hand by loaning out some extra range of motion.
Unfortunately the lower back isn't designed to be highly mobile as it primarily acts as the bodies central stability hub.
There goes the strong stable structural base then. This is partly why retired gymnasts and dancers experience severe lower back pain. They're trained to mobilise and move the lower back for aesthetic and competitive reasons, certainly not for function.
Test 3 - Stand Up ; Sit Down
This one is simple...from a standing position sit on the ground and then stand back up without putting hands on the floor.
Whilst the other two exercises are slightly more passive (i.e. they assess unloaded flexibility and mobility) this exercise requires strength through range.
You can have all the flexibility in the world, unfortunately, if you can't control that movement you may be at even more of a risk!!!
Stiffness and a lack of flexibility is the bodies way of adapting to certain situations and also protecting itself. If the body feels you lack strength when bending forward, for example, chances are it'll jam on your hamstrings in an attempt to keep you away from this hazardous position.
Joint injuries occur when you have tons of joint range but lack the ability to control and stabilise your joints.
Competence in the mentioned tests will not guarantee you never injure your lower back, it will however greatly reduce the odds and also speed up the recovery drastically if you do.